We will always remember Ellie for her love for others, her creativity, sensitivity, and delight in life! Ellie's light has spread far and wide... may it continue to shine in our hearts.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I'm back!

Hi all. I just wanted to let you know that I have just arrived home from Minnesota. I had a wonderful time. It went by so quickly! I will have more to tell and some pictures on another day.

Tonight I will just leave you with Ethan's comments and observations.

"Mom, you look different." (Because I had on jeans and earrings that he had never seen before.)

Then later "Mom, I like your jeans."

And finally "Mom, you are the same beautiful as Ellie."

Ahhhh. Life is good. I'm home, and my son still thinks I'm beautiful. (Or maybe he was temporarily blinded by the gift I brought him from Grandma and Papa. It doesn't really matter. I'll take what I can get!)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

At long last...

I finally have pictures for you of John's hikes! Enjoy.

The crew who hiked on Ellie's birthday. I will try to explain the family relationships. John's dad is the oldest of 9 children. Five of those nine were on this hike! From left to right: (John's aunt Reni is not pictured as she was taking the photo) Michael (John's uncle), Kathy (Michael's wife), Derek (John's uncle Dick's son), John, Ethan in front, Neal (Belinda's son), Celena (Nick's wife), Belinda (John's aunt), Nick (Reni's son), Loretta (John's aunt), Pat (John's mom), Stan (John's dad).


Some pictures are worth a thousand words:


The crew who made it to the top!
From left to right - Stan, Michael, Nick, Celena, Belinda, Neal, John


John and his dad placing Ellie's ashes in a hole:
(Beautiful shot by Belinda of the sun shining into the hole.)


They placed these rocks over the hole.


On another day John, Neal, Celena, and Nick went for a scouting expedition of Great Northern Mountain.


John, Nick and Celena returned to conquer Great Northern. After a brutal climb, they came to this ridge line of peaks. Nick and Celena stayed on a lower peak, and John continued to walk the ridge to get to the highest spot.


Here's my baby on the top of the world!


From this spot, you can see Glacier National Park - see those mountains in the background? Now look at the bumpy snow in the foreground. Just above it, on the right side of the picture, there's a patch of very smooth snow. That's a named glacier! It is "Stanton Glacier".


Once again, John brought some of Ellie's ashes along. This is the spot he chose...


A closeup of the message John left:


And here's my other baby on top of the world:


I will probably be away from the blog for a full week. Tomorrow I'm flying to Minnesota. My step sister-in-law, Trisha, is having a baby shower. (I'm going to have another nephew!!) I am so excited to go on this trip. I will be able to spend a week with Mom and Gary and have the chance to get to know some of Gary's family better. I met Gary's son, Dave and his wife, Trisha at Mom and Gary's wedding a couple of years ago, but I've not seen them since. Gary's daughter, Jenn, will also be in Minnesota for the shower. I can't wait to see her! I've missed Jenn terribly since moving to Montana.

So... I will be back in a week - with pictures! :-)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Regarding the window boxes...

Someone left a comment on the last post asking about the finish on the window boxes, so I thought I'd tell you how I did it. It was incredibly easy, just multiple steps.

First, it started like all good projects do - with a trip to Lowe's (or Home Depot). They sold me this wonderful product for crackle finishes. I don't know the name of it, but they can tell you. I bought the small (quart, I think) size and it was just enough for the two window boxes. I then followed the instructions that came with the glaze.

1. I primed the wood (because it was raw) but if you are painting something that's already been painted you can skip that step.

2. Then I painted my blue/green color on in SATIN finish. (Remember - this first color that you paint is going to be the underneath color that shows through the cracks.) It took less than a quart of this color for both boxes.

3. Then I painted the glaze stuff on. It is kind of milky looking, but dries clear. Follow the instructions carefully when it comes to drying time. (I believe that you are supposed to let it dry for an hour, but NO LONGER than 4 hours before going on to the next step.)

4. The final coat was the trickiest. It was a cream colored FLAT finish paint. (The important part here is that your first color needs to be SATIN finish and the top coat is FLAT.) The smaller the strokes you make with the paintbrush, the smaller and closer together your crackle effect will be. I chose to do long, broad strokes in order to get larger crackling. I also made sure that the paint brush was well loaded with paint. The hardest part was where one stroke ended and the next began because it won't crackle if you overwork the wet paint. I got a few places that looked a little smudged and messy because there wasn't a good transition between strokes - in some places the paint was too thin (resulting in too much blue showing without looking crackled - you can see this in the close up picture, on the far right side of the picture) and in others, I overworked it (resulting in too much cream and not enough crackling). All in all, though, it wasn't too bad because the end result is supposed to look less than neat. I also only used barely a quart of this paint for both boxes.

5. I would recommend letting it dry well (like for days) in the proper temperature. I finished the painting just before the weather turned cold and damp, and I noticed some bubbling in the top coat of paint. Thankfully, by the next day it had flattened out and I can't even tell where it was. Another idea would be to finish it off with a clear coat of some sort, but I like the flat finish on the top coat because it gives it that aged/distressed look instead of a glossy, "finished" appearance.

All in all, I highly recommend that anyone try this treatment. It was very fun and pretty easy! I would just caution you to make sure that you have enough time to do steps 3 and 4 on the same day. You can always prime and paint the first coat a day/days before. But once you start the glaze, you have to follow it through to the end. You can also play around with your color choices - think dark top coat with a lighter color showing through (I almost made my top coat the dark brown mud room color). The possibilities are endless. Have fun!

My Home

I finally have pictures of my house for you!

Our Home

The original color was a beige, which was fine, but I was aiming to find colors that would blend the house in with the surrounding nature. I think that goal was accomplished. (The camper on the left side of the house belongs to John's parents. They drove it here, and that is where they stayed during their visit.)

Cottage in the Woods

A closer view of the mudroom and front door. The sign says "Bugaboo Cottage". John made up a little song when Ellie was a toddler, called "My Baby Bugaboo" and he would sing it to her when she would ride on his shoulders to go get the mail. The stone at the base of the flower pot is the other half of the "Ellie" stone at the base of Ellie's memorial rock.

Mud Room

This is my little flower garden! See, it's alive. :-) (Or rather, was alive, before the frost got it...)

The Landscaping

These are my birthday chairs with their fresh coat of blue stain! They are sitting next to the house, close to where the camper is in the above picture.

The Birthday Chairs

This is one of my beautiful window boxes that Stan and John made. I just love them. (The boxes as well as John and Stan.)

Window Box

I had to show you a close up of the crackle finish on my window boxes!

Closeup of the window box

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'm in over my head...

I just heard this song by Brian Littrell today on the way to take Ethan to school. I couldn't wait to get home to share it with you...

(Click "POP-OUT PLAYER" at the bottom of the grey box)



I don't know about you on all this (cold in Montana) Tuesday morning, but I have to tell you... I'm definitely in over my head. And it's the best place in the world to be!

Over My Head

I tried to figure it out
Time and time again and time again
I guess there's just some things I'll never understand
'Cause Your ways aren't our ways
But deep down in my soul, down in my soul
There is one thing I know that I know

I'm in over my head
Right where I wanna be
I'm so lost within Your love
The love that always covers me
So high, so deep, so wide
A strong and cleansing tide
My soul has found a place to rest
I'm in over my head

I've been holding on
Now I'm letting go, just letting go
Gonna let Your love carry me away
I don't know where I'm going
But I'm surrounded by the truth
And I can feel the current pulling me
Deeper into You

I'm in over my head
Right where I wanna be
I'm so lost within Your love
The love that always covers me
So high, so deep, so wide
A strong and cleansing tide
My soul has found a place to rest
I'm in over my head

You see me for who I am
You did reach out Your hand
You made me understand
That Your love has always covered me

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A little quilting, anyone?

I'm sorry if my last post was depressing. Truly we aren't doing so badly. It was kind of a small dip in the grand scheme of things. I think that's just all part of our new life. Sometimes, rather than wince and try to turn away from the painful things, we just turn into them and embrace the pain and sorrow and go where it takes us. John is way better at it than I am, but I am learning that I can live through the facing of it, and come out on the other side.

We have also had many joyful times lately. At the top of the list for me has been our marathon quilting bee! It has been absolutely wonderful to spread out all of Ellie's clothes. The memories tend to come on strong as I look at certain patterns or touch the soft fabric, but the emotions that accompany them are not sad. And as I look at the beautiful blanket that is beginning to take shape, I cannot help but to see it through Ellie's eyes. I know exactly which squares she would exclaim over, and the look in her eyes when it all becomes too much and she squeals with glee...

I am also loving the process of working with John's aunts! They have added so much in all aspects - creatively, practically, and just in the enjoyment of working together.

Melanie gasps and hides her eyes every time we cut into an item of Ellie's clothing. Then she assures us that she doesn't want to take on something too complicated or precious, but ends up doing a beautiful and precise job of it. She says that this project feels so much like working on the scrapbook that we made just after Ellie died. She is so right! (She also gasped and averted her eyes when we were cutting up pictures and Ellie's drawings to use in the scrapbook.)

Belinda will take on any challenge, and faces the most difficult and intricate task with reckless abandon... and succeeds. She says that this project feels to her like the way that the family came together to help us with Ellie's journey through cancer. Everyone was so supportive and giving of themselves in their own unique ways. She is also so right!

Loretta keeps an eye on everything from the practical components involved to the overall artistic effect - as well as everything in between. She is our "quality control" and makes sure that everything is done right. (She is also relentless when it comes to tidying up and organizing the bits and pieces. I am so tempted to stealthily sprinkle parts of the scrap bag around the room just to time how long it takes her to restore order.) Loretta has not stopped moving long enough for me to find out what this process reminds her of.

I, as the fearless leader, mostly just try to keep them from running a muck! (Don't worry, I have only had to take out my stern voice a few times, and kept Belinda in line just today with one scathing glance. I feel such a sense of power.) I have been more involved in the layout and decision making process, which is funny because everyone gives an opinion and then looks at me and says "you decide, it's your blanket!" I think that they have just been trying to keep me so busy that I won't touch the thing until they are finished. (We won't talk about what happened with the original pieces I cut and put together. I believe that I have told you before that I am not known for my perfectionism.) What they do not realize is that they are playing right into my master plan. I find all of this part very tedious, and am quite content to "let them" do it. :-) I'm looking forward to the next phase of the process. We (and by "we", I mean they) finally have all of the squares to the point where we can add batting and begin quilting them. I am so excited about this! We can spend the whole winter working on the beautiful stitching.

John has enjoyed taking hikes with his cousin Nick and Nick's wife, Celena. We even let Belinda out of the sweat shop yesterday to go out with them. I will be sure to give you some pictures, as they have taken in some breathtaking sights.

Thank you once again for standing with us through the ups and downs. We love you all.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

And the grief process continues...

Ethan came up to me today and said "Mom, I want to be alone because I miss Ellie. My heart is breaking. There's a crack going down and over to the left. Tomorrow the crack will open up." So there you have it. Hearts are breaking, and in very specific places, I might add!

Yesterday we tortured ourselves with pictures of Ellie's last day, as well as pictures of her after she had already died. It was a good thing to do, but still very heavy. We ended up discussing every aspect of that last day, from what Ellie said to what drugs and remedies were given. All in all it was a very productive thing to do, but it did leave John feeling pretty sad at work today. (Ethan did not see the pictures, but we are glad that we have them to show him someday when he is ready and wanting that. We have some really special shots of Ethan hugging Ellie's body and kissing her face.)

Today Belinda, Melanie, Loretta and I sewed on the quilt of Ellie's clothes while Reni worked on the computer and we all watched "Pride and Prejudice". It was such a nice day! The quilt is coming along beautifully. I can't wait to show you pictures!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

For Your Enjoyment...

Today John came across these videos and we had the best time looking at them. They were taken at the Ronald McDonald House in NY. I am not sure of the date, but I'm thinking it was somewhere around May, 2007.

John took this one when we were sorting and packing to leave one time. Ellie was doing her part to look through all of the stuff she had collected. She had no idea that John was filming her until the very end. She just cracks me up!

Ellie and I had the best time watching What Not To Wear together. When she found out that it was filmed in New York, she was thrilled! When they put someone in the 360 degree mirror, Ellie would shake her head in a most grown up manner, and say "oh, that's just awful. How could anyone think that outfit looks good?" And of course my personal favorite: the eye roll followed by a dry "Oh, that's just embarrassing!" This time, Ellie jumped up and did a model walk. John spliced several clips together to make this little video.

This last one speaks for itself. Sorry about the crazy camera angles. (Someone who shall remain nameless did not realize that turning the camera like you do to take pictures, does not work the same way when taking video!) Oh how I miss that sweet little face! Can I just pick her off the screen and scoop her into my lap? (Would some of you computer guru people out there figure that one out for me? Please?)